What comes to mind when you hear the word freedom?
I recently asked during my sermon, Do Democracy.
“Liberty,” said one member of All Souls.
“Fight,” said another.
“Africa,” said a third.
Then, I heard, “Vote!”
It was the voice of Floretta Reed, our President. The President of our Board of Trustees, that is.
Voting hasn’t always been for everyone
Flo was raised right here in Oklahoma. Her mom was born in 1910 and her dad was born in 1907. Her grandparents never had the right to vote. Her parents came of age in the 1930s and could vote or not, depending on the mood of the white person at the voting station that day.
Her mom had finished high school, and had an easier time of it than many, because she could pass the test they gave her, before they allowed her to vote. Her dad usually had the money for the poll tax, so he also voted.
Of course, no white people had to take a test or pay a poll tax.
Flo’s parents, Herman and Mintha Kirby, told Flo all her life, “If you ever get the right to vote, you exercise it.”
Vote Every Single Time
Flo marched for her own voting rights in college, in the 1960s. She voted for the first time when she was 22 years old and hasn’t missed an election since. Not one. Not a school board election, city council election, sheriff’s, state referendum, congressional, or presidential election.
“It’s a treasure. It’s your voice. And each and every voice counts in a democracy. These elections are so close these days. One vote can definitely make a difference. Your voice matters,” she said. “And not exercising that right is … I don’t want to judge, she said, but … I just think it’s SO important to exercise that right.”
I asked her about the electoral college and she continued,“If you’re feeling cynical about the electoral college, we have to get the right people in office to change it. We need 66 and 2/3 of Congress to vote to change it. And 66 and 2/3 of the states to ratify the change. It won’t happen fast. So, we have to stay engaged to make it happen.”
What if more of us followed Flo’s lead?
Last Memorial Day, at a family reunion of all things, Flo, noticing her younger cousins, asked one if he was registered to vote. When he said no, Flo set up a table, covered it with a cloth, and started registering people to vote. At her family reunion! “Why not set up a table at football games? In front of your yoga studio? All you need is a table, a sign, forms, pens & pencils,” she challenged me.
A challenge for you
We know our democracy is imperfect. We know that in 2015, our democracy was downgraded from a full to a flawed democracy, and that we rank 21st in the world, in the Economist’s index of democracies. As imperfect as it is, it is also the social and political expression of the religious principle that all people are brothers & sisters … that on this earth, we are part of one human family … unrestricted by nation, race or creed.
Our democracy needs us … it needs YOU to repair its greatest moral failing … the exclusion of so many others.
Vote Love Beyond Belief
100 years with the right to vote … for most of us, but not all
In 2020, we will celebrate 100 years of women having the right to vote. Everyone’s invited to join us at the Tulsa Historical Society and Museum’s Women’s Suffrage Commemoration on Saturday, February 22, 11 a.m. Tragically, black women (and men) could not fully enjoy this freedom until the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965.
Resist & Insist
As more and more states enforce restrictions on the right vote, we must resist and insist. Especially those of us who have the right and the responsibility to vote.
Join us at All Souls on every Sunday in February 2020 to explore the theme of Choosing Freedom. We’d love to have you with us in-person or online, together in community and covenant. Live stream services are at 10:00 a.m. CST for our Traditional service or the 11:30 a.m. CST Contemporary service.
Listen to all our services, including The Point, Humanist Hour (Sundays at 11:30 a.m.) on our weekly podcast, too. Wednesday Connections kicks off on January 15 with a community screening of American Heretics: The Politics of the Gospel. Regular programing begins the following week, 5:30 p.m. with dinner and a full night of programming for everyone.
Rev. Barbara Prose is the Executive Director of Ministry at All Souls in Tulsa. Watch Rev. Barbara Prose sermon ‘Do Democracy’ on our Youtube Channel. Read more from Rev. Barbara Prose on BeyondBelief.online.